Written by Lucy Fagan and Alistair Mukondiwa, Youth Combating NTDs Advisory Board Members.

At the beginning of April, Youth Combating NTDs (YCNTDs) met with Uniting to Combat NTDs in South Africa for an exciting Theory of Change workshop. As we work towards amplifying NTDs globally, it is crucial that we also take time to reflect together and restrategize to ensure our work continues to meet the needs of a changing world. This workshop provided an important space for us to reflect on what we have learnt so far on our journey, map out a preliminary impact strategy for YCNTDs, and lay the groundwork for how our activities will develop and scale up over the coming years.

The workshop brought together participants from four continents, with representation from Tanzania, Bangladesh, Canada, the UK, Kenya, Zimbabwe, and the Philippines. The workshop was hosted both in-person and online to ensure that everyone could join and contribute. Notably, this was also the first time the Youth Advisory Board had met in person since commencing work almost two years ago, so we were excited to meet and get straight to work!

A photograph of a group of young people working on a large sheet of paper, drawing different words and ideas, there are coloured pens on the table and water

The various lenses enriched the theory of change process we viewed the work through, due to our diverse expertise, backgrounds, and lived experiences. We used creativity as a critical tool to generate and communicate our ideas – from art to acting – and broke out into groups to discuss and debate priorities. Lengthy deliberations were held as we reflected on how to pool all our perspectives to forge a clear and impactful way forward for YCNTDs.  

Major themes we discussed included building the youth movement in the NTDs space and centering on accountability and social justice as we work towards ending NTDs globally. We also unanimously recognised the importance of fostering new collaborations and centering young people’s lived experience in the work of YCNTDs – with a particular focus on building the capacity of these individuals to become advocates and leaders of the NTD movement. It was incredibly powerful to see our ideas come together and a strong unifying vision emerging – one that is ambitious, dynamic, and truly leverages our distinct voice and identity in the NTD movement.

From there, we also spent a lot of time structuring activities that can support the major ambitions of YCNTDs and support work already taking place around NTDs from the local level to the global level. We also strategized around several key NTD advocacy and accountability moments coming up, starting with the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Kigali later this year. We will be taking these discussions forward as we seek to amplify youth voices and our demands for accelerated action.

A photograph of group of four young people. Their backs are turned away from the camera towards a white board covered in different colour sticky notes. They are in a well lit conference room.

Uniting to Combat NTDs’ support in convening and facilitating this workshop was critical. It spoke to their continued commitment to working as allies and partners with youth in the fight against NTDs.

This is the beginning of an exciting new chapter for YCNTDs. The ideas and activities identified through our workshop will form the basis of a new YCNTDs Impact Strategy for 2022-2025. This new strategy will streamline YCNTDs’ work, accelerate our collective impact and serve as a springboard for growth. In the coming months, there will be an exponential increase in youth participation in the NTDs movement from the grassroots to the highest level, and young people’s voices will help accelerate the world’s trajectory towards ending the scourge of NTDs.